Beef Ragu Or Beef Bolognese? That Is The Question!

In my early teens when I first started cooking meat sauce with spaghetti it was relatively simple. Saute’ some garlic and onions in any olive oil…add chopped beef and tomatoes and everyone was happy.

 

As time went by I became more educated about food and ingredients and technique. Like anyone, I simply wanted to make the best sauce I could and picked up on the way sauce was made by researching the many different ingredients and techniques used by the top chefs. Next came  “Bolognese” and then “Ragu” and the vast list of ingredients used by so many chefs over the years still make it quite difficult to define a ragu or a bolognese sauce recipe. A perfect example:  Top chef Marcella Hazan and her application of nutmeg to her famous bolognese recipe!.

Lets fast forward to 2010 when I decided to try something other than chopped beef and/or veal and pork, It all started after enjoying a beef braciole dinner with some friends.*** Although you can use pork for this recipe, we were served the flank steak version and we loved it. It was then that I decided to make what I would call a flank steak ragu*****…however for all intents and purposes, it could have been called flank steak bolognese. Just look at this recipe I saw online for “bolognese” served with sirloin steak and no beef of any type IN the “bolognese’ sauce. See what I’m saying.

Bolognese Sauce

  • ¼ cup diced carrot
  • ¼ cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 pounds peeled tomatoes
  • 3 teaspoons tomato paste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

*****

BetsaPasta Flank Steak Ragu Recipe (As seen in Parmesan.com**)

The main ingredients that are pretty much staple in a Bolognese or Ragu are onions, carrots, celery (otherwise known as Mirepoix), EVOO, red or white wine, sometimes garlic sometimes no garlic, and tomatoes or tomato paste. Nowadays, there is no one recipe that defines a Bolognese or a Ragu…despite the “tradition”…since it’s a never ending quest by chefs to stimulate and surprise their patrons with recipes that manipulate and finesse all these ingredients to reach a level of individuality that sets them apart. 

 

So here’s my latest for now…

Serves 8 as a main course

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 lbs. chopped beef sirloin  (90%lean/10% fat)

3/4  cup veal or beef stock. This is a flavor I enjoy from “More Than Gourmet”. You can use any veal or beef stock you enjoy or if not available you can eliminate use of the stock

3 large carrots (chopped)

1 very large onion (chopped)

6  celery heart  stalks (chopped)

2 large finely chopped or pressed cloves of fresh garlic

1 cup of white wine like pinot grigio

1 28 oz. can of really good tomatoes (“DOP San Marzano”) pureed or 1 quart of peeled fresh tomatoes pureed(more readily available in summer time

1 oz. sweet unsalted butter (added at the end of the cooking process)

1 cup Mascarpone’ (added at the end of the cooking process)

 

 

Technique:

-Add ground beef to your cooking pot with one cup of water and half of the extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and squeeze the beef by hand for a few minutes to make the beef as smooth as possible. It’s not really a flavor thing, but more of a texture thing which I thought worked. Then cook on a medium high heat adding 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and stirring frequently until the meat is browned and there is very little or no liquid at the bottom of the pot.

-Lower the heat to medium and add the stock, all the vegetables, garlic and 1 more teaspoon of salt. Cook about 15 minutes stirring to prevent anything sticking to the bottom of the pot and until the onions are caramelized and the veggies are soft.

-Add the wine and cook for about 5-8 minutes until the wine is cooked off and little or no liquid is sitting at the bottom of the pot.

-Add the pureed tomatoes…reduce the heat to low and cook for about 2 hours stirring often enough to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

-After 2 hours the sauce should be quite thick. Add the Mascarpone’ and butter and don’t be afraid to add a little water (up to 1/2 cup) if the sauce appears to get too dry before the two hours of cooking time is up.                                .

-When serving…simply stir together your sauce into your choice of pasta (I’m liking either a blend of shapes or a pappardelle is nice too) and adding  the rest of the EVOO, a bit more salt and fresh pepper to taste. If you want, you can add some of the starched pasta water to the pot to adjust the moisture to your liking. Serve with plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mangia bene’!

 

As always…would love to hear from you with your thoughts, ideas or suggestions in the COMMENT box below.

Mangia bene’

Chef Bert

 

 

 

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